VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Pat Quinn, a former defenseman and longtime NHL coach and executive who brought a gruff and passionate presence to hockey across the decades, has died at 71.
He died Sunday night in Vancouver after a long illness, the Hockey Hall of Fame and the Western Hockey League’s Vancouver Giants said Monday. Quinn was co-owner of the team.
Quinn played parts of nine seasons in the NHL and went on to coach the Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs. Quinn guided Canada to the championship at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, the country’s first gold medal in men’s hockey in 50 years. He was behind the bench when Canada won the World Cup of Hockey in 2004.
“Pat Quinn was a giant of the hockey world, on the ice and off,” Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Twitter.
Quinn coached Vancouver to the 1994 Stanley Cup final, the Canadian world junior team to gold in 2009 and helped the Maple Leafs reach the Eastern Conference finals two times.
“Whether he was playing for a team, coaching a team or building one, Pat Quinn was thoughtful, passionate and committed to success,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.
“Pat’s contributions to hockey, at every level, reflected the skills he possessed and the great respect with which he treated the sport.”
Broadcaster and executive John Davidson described Quinn as “a guy that loves the game so much that when he walks in, you know hockey’s in the room.”
Quinn led the Philadelphia Flyers to a 35-game unbeaten streak in the 1979-80 season that almost certainly will never be broken since ties have been taken out of the game. In 15 full seasons as an NHL coach, Quinn’s teams missed the playoffs only three times. That success came over the span of decades, as a coach and executive.
“He’s not unlike a Scotty Bowman in that they’re really bright guys,” said former Washington Capitals GM George McPhee, who worked under him in Vancouver and made his son Graham’s middle name Quinn in tribute.
“They were really intelligent and they could see the trends, they could see the fads, the things that were going to come and go and the things that would stay. Very perceptive and he adjusted and advanced.”
Quinn was admired by those close to him for having a heart to match his 6-foot-3, 200-plus-pound frame.
“He’s a real guy’s guy. He’s a man’s man,” Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon said. “He’s just a straight shooter and called it like it is.”
Quinn was born in Hamilton, Ontario, on Jan. 29, 1943. He bounced around the minors before making his NHL debut with the Leafs in 1968. In the 1969 playoffs, his blindside hit on Bobby Orr knocked out the legendary defenseman.
Quinn also played for the Canucks and Atlanta Flames before retiring in 1977 with an ankle injury. Almost immediately, he went into coaching and was an assistant on Fred Shero’s staff in Philadelphia. During the 1978-79 season, he replaced Bob McCammon as the Flyers’ coach.
“Pat brought a complete change to the game that we had made so successful under Shero,” said Bobby Clarke, a Hall of Fame player for the Flyers, later their GM and now the team’s senior vice president. “You trusted what he was trying to implement with our team.”
Quinn became the coach of the Los Angeles Kings after his dismissal in Philadelphia. He left Los Angeles to take the job of president and GM in Vancouver.
He returned to coaching during the 1990-91 season and won his second coach of the year title with the Canucks the next season when they went 42-26-12.
Perhaps his most memorable accomplishment came when the Canucks, seeded seventh in the Western Conference, beat Calgary, Dallas and Toronto to reach the Stanley Cup final in the 1993-94 season.
The Canucks made it to Game 7 before losing to the New York Rangers.
Quinn went back to the front office in Vancouver, where he remained until he was fired by new ownership in 1997. Quinn returned to coaching in 1998 when he was hired by the Maple Leafs. Toronto went to the Eastern Conference final in his first season in 1998-99 and again in 2002. During the 2002 East final, Quinn missed two games with heart problems.
“He allowed himself to get overweight, he smoked the cigars and loved to socialize,” Clarke said.
The Leafs made the playoffs in Quinn’s first five seasons, which included a stint as president and GM.
He “had a presence in the dressing room that demanded respect and had a way of talking and getting the guys ready for each game that really got the best out of the teams that he coached,” longtime Leafs captain Mats Sundin said.
Quinn was fired after the Leafs missed the playoffs in the first season after the 2004-05 lockout and the first one in the NHL played under a salary cap. After three years away, he coached the Edmonton Oilers for one season in 2009-10.
Quinn most recently spent time as chairman of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
“He was obviously very, very competitive when he coached and when he played and when he managed,” said Davidson, president of the Columbus Blue Jackets and chairman of the Hall of Fame’s selection committee. “But he’s a guy that obviously wants to be around the game.”
McPhee spoke of the impact Quinn left on people.
“Pat was one of the most phenomenal human beings I’ve ever known,” he said. “A lot of us feel really, really lucky that we got to work for him.”
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